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Data-Informed Decision Making

Seaports have always used data to measure their current success and to plan for the future. Now they have the potential to do even more. New methods of collecting information and the growth of computing power and cloud storage has made it possible for ports to revolutionize their ability to capture, store and analyze data.

* By Mary Lou Jay *

Seaports have always used data – like the number of TEUs handled or passengers served – to measure their current success and to plan for the future. Now they have the potential to do even more. New methods of collecting information and the growth of computing power and cloud storage has made it possible for ports to capture, store and analyze data and become more efficient in their operations and processes.

Port Tampa Bay has been working with SME Solutions Group to incorporate business intelligence analytics (BI) into its processes. With their first project, the port was able to reduce the time it took to compile the monthly board report from more than 40 hours to about 20 minutes. Instead of staff members manually retrieving the information from several different systems, an automated system now brings all the data together and consolidates it into the necessary format for the board.

There are additional benefits to this approach to data handling. “The customers get value in finding new insights by bringing together data sets that used to be separate,” said Ron Katzman, SME’s director of strategy and operations. At Port Tampa Bay, financial data was kept in one system while real estate information resided in another. Being able to review both sets of data at the same time has enabled the port to identify some discrepancies and correct them.

“When people are manually doing things, there’s a lot of data integrity, data trust and data reliability that any organization struggles with,” added Chris Moyer, SME’s CEO. “When analytics and process are put into place, it allows IT to find those data discrepancies and clean them up.” With better data, ports can make more informed decisions.

The availability of real-time data also enabled the port’s staff to track the number of passengers using its cruise ship terminal. Instead of having to wait a month or more to hear about the million-passenger milestone, they were all able to see it and celebrate immediately.

The data in the Port of South Louisiana’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a powerful tool in marketing available properties along its 54-mile riverfront.

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